Yesterday I introduced you to Beth Kirby, a successful cookie maker who sells on Etsy under the SunshineBakes name. During the course of our interview Beth was kind enough to share the following tips for any other food entrepreneurs who are looking to open their own Esty store: Read more
Posts tagged ‘food business’
While at the Fancy Food Show last week I had the opportunity to walk the show floor with a buyer from a specialty gourmet store. It was an interesting anthropological experience to watch her as she checked out all the booths as I was looking to see what things caught her attention in the midst of over 2000+ vendor booths. Read more
When it comes to food, Southern Oregon is known for producing pears and berries that are second to none. In recent years the area has also been gaining a reputation for its chocolate delicacies thanks to the passion and artistry of Jeff Shepherd of Lillie Belle Farms. Between being featured on Oprah’s website in 2009 and just recently being awarded a 2011 Good Food Awards honoring top artisan chocolate makers, Lillie Belle Farms has come a long way from selling chocolates out of a zip lock bag at farmers markets! Read more
Ugh! That’s really the only word to describe the financial markets yesterday. With everyone predicting the end of the world as we know it, you have to wonder why anyone in their right mind would think of starting up a business right now. With the entire global financial market on the verge of a nervous breakdown, is it really a good idea to start a business. Truth of the matter is that now is actually a great time to start a small business – if you do it right.
Unemployed or Underemployed? Employ yourself! – Unemployment is hovering around 9.2% and that doesn’t even take into account those who are underemployed. If you’re looking for a job right now, or looking for a job worthy of your skill set and background, you know that it’s brutal out there and every resume you send out seems to go into a giant black hole.
While it may seem crazy to start a business in an environment like this, it may actually be better to put yourself to work rather than waiting for someone else to give you a job. Use the skills you have and those business ideas you used to fantasize about while sitting in your office cube to good use and do something for yourself. Not to mention that a small business – food or otherwise – can be a source of income and it shouldn’t necessarily prohibit you from looking for a job. In fact, showing that you have the wherewithal, gumption, and mental fortitude to start a business while unemployed, regardless of its size, may actually help your resume float to the top of that next pile.
One of the great unemployed-to-small food business success stories is that of King of Pops. When the founder was downsized from AIG in the first part of the Great Recession he literally turned lemons into lemonade – or more correctly, into juicy delicious fruit ice pops known, inCentral America, as paletas. What started as one cart and a way to bring a little extra cash into his pockets has turned into one of the most successful mobile food business operations in theSoutheastern United States.
Employed but nervous about your next paycheck? – If you’re worried that your company might be considering a round of layoffs of if it’s already been explained that there will be no pay increases in 2012, starting your own small business is a way to take control of your own financial situation and try to bring in additional money. In this case, a part-time business like a farmers’ market booth or a small wedding cake business can be a way for you to work your regular 9-5 (who are we kidding – it’s more like 8-6 these days!) and start up something of your own on the side. In addition to being a source of additional revenue, a part-time business can be expanded to become a full-time business if you’re one day callously handed a pink slip under the guise of “corporate cost cutting.” As I always like to say, no one can ever fire me from my own business and when things are this uncertain that’s a very empowering feeling!
Being Small Is Feasible and Powerful! – Unlike other business models, a small food business can be started with minimal money. Startup costs obviously vary depending on what type of business you plan to start, but thinking small in these times can be a benefit. You may have always dreamed about starting a bakery, rather than go into debt to finance that consider starting smaller with a baked goods booth at a festival or other event. If you’ve always wanted to open up your own restaurant rather than trying to get a loan for hundreds of thousands of dollars, take a look at food trucks instead. In both those cases you can start your dream food business on a shoestring budget, build a customer base, and, when the economy improves, use that as a springboard to grow your business into something bigger. You may very well be the next Microsoft (which started during the recession of the 1970’s) of the food world and the skills you learn now about keeping a tight rein on the budget will be a huge benefit regardless of how big your business one day grows.
This Is A Great Time to Hire Outsourced Help – No matter how big or small the business you’re planning is, there are some key fundamentals that you should have in place when you launch including, at a minimum, a well-designed logo, packaging (if that is needed for your business), and a website. Of that 9.2% of people who are out of work, there are a multitude of unemployed graphic artists, web designers, and other skilled professionals who are anxious for work. While I always advocate paying people fairly for the work that they do, anyone you hire to help with outsourced tasks may be willing to negotiate their rate based on what you want and how much you are willing to pay.
There Is Still A Large Focus On Buying Local – One of the best things to come out of the ‘last’ recession of 2008 (we are not technically in a new recession, which is two quarters of negative growth, but to many it may already feel like we’re in another or, in some cases, the first one never ended) was the focus on buying locally-made products and locally-sourced ingredients. If you live in an area where “buy local” is an important factor in people’s buying decisions, this can help propel your small food business to success. Historically in recessions, people crave basic comfort items which explains, in part, why pie became so popular during 2008-2010. If you have an idea that harkens back to a simpler time and is made from locally-sourced ingredients you may just be sitting on the next big food trend idea!
Without a doubt, starting a business – be it big or small – is always a bit of a gamble and there is absolutely no guarantee that you will make money. That is why developing a business plan before you start is so important. However, if opening your own small food business is something you’ve always dreamed of, this may actually be a great time to jump in and give entrepreneurship a try.
If you’re part of Generation X (or older), then you’ll remember a time when networking was just that. It wasn’t considered ‘social’ – it just was. And it wasn’t done behind a computer. Networking for small businesses is just as powerful as it ever was and a strong network can help make or break your business.
Chances are, no matter what your business idea is, there is someone else out there who has faced a similar problem and figured out an answer. Rather than spending your time trying to come to the same conclusion, your network can provide you with those resources, give you new ideas, and help steer you away from making bad financial decisions. Personally, my business accountant is a godsend to me and I found her through a recommendation another small food entrepreneur made.
So how do you develop that network? It may take some time to build up a strong network, but you have to start somewhere. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to other food entrepreneurs you meet and ask vendors you work with if they might be willing to put you in touch with some of their other small food business clients. You can also see if your local Small Business Administration office has get-togethers or mixers or whether there is an existing Entrepreneur Group in your area. While not all of those people may be in the food industry, they will likely still be able to provide you with great resources and a sounding board to help you make decisions.
The good news is that the ‘social’ part of networking can help. Twitter and Facebook can be great places to ask business questions and see what other entrepreneurs recommend (this of course assumes that you have entrepreneurial ”followers”). Just be forewarned that while 99% of the advice you’ll receive online is likely given in good spirit, if you’ve never met the recommender in person you aren’t completely sure what their motives are so use your judgement when taking their thoughts or comments into account.
Do you have a business network you rely on? How did you develop those relationships?
Unless you are one of the lucky ones who can operate a food business out of your own home due to local cottege food laws, you will likely need to find some type of commercial kitchen space to make your artisan food products. One option worth checking out is Commercial Kitchens for Rent which is an online resource of commercial kitchen spaces that can be rented by small food entrepreneurs. To make searching easier, the site is divided by state or you can do a search based on locations within a certain proximity to you.
As I mentioned yesterday, I had a professional photo shoot earlier this week. In talking with the photographer, she said that she was in the process of changing her thinking about who she is. “I have to stop thinking of myself as a photographer,” she said, “and start thinking of myself as a businesswoman.”
This statement has stuck with me because I think it’s something that a lot of us small entrepreneurs – regardless of whether we work with food, photos, or fidos – forget. We often start our businesses because it’s a passion of ours. For those of us food entrepreneurs we got into this crazy and wacky world because we love working with food, we love feeding people, and we love sharing good flavors with others. So for that reason, when asked many of us will say that we’re a chef, a cook, or a baker.
But the truth of the matter is that running a small food business is much more than simply tying on an apron and firing up the ovens. In order to make a business successful we have to think like businessmen and businesswomen first and foremost. That means that we have to be willing to throw ourselves as enthusiastically into QuickBooks as we do into our recipes and we have to spend as much time on Marketing as we do on developing new flavor combinations.
If what you want is to be a cook, a chef, or a baker then it might be worth taking your skills and getting hired on by someone else where you can focus all your energy on the cooking, sautéing, and baking. If, however, you want to run your own food business then the business half of that equation needs as much of your attention as the food half.
I’d be interested in knowing what you think about this. Leave a comment here or feel free to email me at info (at) smallfoodbiz (dot) com.
Building off of yesterday’s post, I felt it was worthwhile to bring up some additional features of Google+ that might impact you as a small food business owner. According to an article published by HubSpot, Google+ makes it incredibly easy for emails to be shared with a simple click of a button. Imagine this, you send out a compelling email to your customers – many of whom have gmail accounts – and a portion of those are so excited by what they read they post it to Google+ by simply clicking a button in their Gmail inbox. What’s more, because Google+ allows users to create targeted groups via the Circles feature, anyone who forwards your email will likely forward it to a group of people that is interested in similar things and so on and so forth. You can see how quickly this can go viral but, more importantly to you as a small food business entrepreneur, how it can go viral to people who want to hear what you have to say.